SARACENS IN THE MANITOBA RUGBY HALL OF FAME
The Sport of Rugby in Manitoba has a long and proud history that dates back to the late 1870's and it is fitting to celebrate that history and recognize those who have made a significant contribution to the game. -Jim Russell
Larry "BIGFOOT" Debooy, former Captain of the Saracens Rugby Football Club, represented his Club at the Premier Division Level for 35 years (since 1970); played (and also served as Captain) for Manitoba numerous times and participated in several national tryouts. Larry also coached the Saracens and set the standard which all club players should strive to achieve.
His nickname referred to his physical size but for Larry "Bigfoot" Debooy, it also reflects the footprint he left on the game of rugby in Manitoba.
At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds during his playing days, Debooy's passion for playing rugby was only matched by his devotion to fitness which allowed him to make rugby his lifelong sport. His "Bigfoot" nickname began with his stature but he carried it proudly with a fierce playing style and unique training techniques.
The Saracens Rugby Football Club's longest playing member, Debooy played 35 years in the First Division and served 18 years as Saracens' captain. He was selected to 15 provincial teams where he was named captain seven times. Rugby Manitoba officials said these records are unlikely ever to be broken in Manitoba.
He played numerous international matches during his career which he later expanded to include the role of coach with the Saracens. His former teammates, who were also his lifelong friends, said Debooy "set the standard" for the work ethic and sportsmanship that all rugby players should aspire to achieve.
Debooy who died on January 16, 2009 after a battle with cancer, is survived by his wife Valerie and a legacy of battles on the rugby park.
In 1970 a group of young Saracens' thought it would be a good idea to get together and convince a few of the other local clubs to join them for rugby and a party. The likes of Gerry Neufer, Ed Wieler, and Art Logan put together a few back room deals, misled a few of the rookies, and somehow convinced the upstanding members of the Rugby Union that fun could be had playing rugby during the August long weekend. SNAFU was born, and has become the largest independently run single team tournament in North America, a mainstay of rugby in Manitoba and an August long weekend tradition for more than 40 years.
The term SNAFU dates back to 1941, then used by both the British and American soldiers to describe circumstances which had run into a large and unexpected series of problems. This term still applies, with late starts, tents blowing in the wind, unruly weather and a host of other challenges.
Over 41 years the tournament has taken on many faces, from running as a 7's tournament, as a Cash Tournament, as a Social tournament, all the while supporting youth rugby and both Women's and Men's divisions. SNAFU has offered both 15-a-side and 10-a-side variations of the game, and offered the 2016 Olympic Games bound 7-a-side variation in 2011, with the intention of growing to a national 7's tournament.
SNAFU has hosted international teams and players from dozens of countries, numerous states from the USA, and many Canadian provinces. A great number of international and local friendships have continued for decades based on the bonds forged at SNAFU, and will continue to strengthen the friendships between Manitoba Rugby and our national and international vistors for years to come.
An estimated 10,000 men and women from around the world had the opportunity to not only play a game they love, but to enjoy the camaraderie of rugby off the field.
Many people have poured their hearts and souls into SNAFU since it's inception in 1970. It's success rests on many, many shoulders. For many years Willy Marchak and Art Logan were a driving force in keeping the tournament alive and prospering.
The Saracens Rugby Football Club considers it a privilege to host this long-standing tradition in Manitoba and look forward to many years of supporting the local Rugby Community through SNAFU.
Gary (Woody) MacDonald
Gary (Woody) MacDonald wears many hats in the name of the love of rugby. As a player, his top priority was to the team. His commitment in terms of time and financial support to the game, the league and the Rugby community as a whole is unprecedented. Woody continues to be relentless working behind the scenes for promoting the game of rugby to Manitoba youth.
Gary MacDonald was introduced to rugby by the Harlequin Rugby Club in high school in Brantford Ontario, followed by university rugby at Western Ontario and then a year of rugby in Scotland. In the summer of 1971, Gary was in Winnipeg working in the family business. A chance meeting at a fraternity Christmas party earlier that year led to an invitation to rugby practice along the banks of the Red River. Gary showed up and joined a group of lads training there. About an hour later he saw his friend Lou Furlan, who was jogging with another group. He learned later he had mistakenly joined the Assassins practice. Of course this was quickly remedied and a 40-year relationship with the Saracens RFC was born. Gary returned to London Ontario to finish his degree and then spent a year in Scotland before returning to Winnipeg in 1976.
Woody represented Manitoba on the Provincial Team on 7 occasions and was team captain for the Saracens for numerous years. He was also selected to try out for the Canadian National Rugby side. The highlight of his career was playing on a Prairie Select side in a match against the Welsh club side Llanelli in 1973 at the Bomber stadium. He was also a member of the Saracen tour side to New Zealand in 1980. Woody was a very strong player as a center, fullback (His secret actually was to be a forward). The Saracens became a strong, solid club as a result of his tireless efforts both in terms of his exceptional playing abilities and organizational skills. Gary put as much effort into rugby’s social activities as he did when on the field. Of course there isn’t a player in the rugby community that hasn’t been exposed to his exceptional bagpipe renditions for any and all occasions.
Gary was one of the driving forces behind the development of the Maple Grove Rugby Park from the original concept to completion. The founding group took a proposal for the development of a rugby facility and worked from 1981-1985 to make that proposal a reality in 1985 with the opening of Maple Grove. He is a tireless worker and ongoing financial supporter of this project.
The highlight of each spring for Gary is helping introduce another group of enthusiastic young lads to the great game of rugby. Woody was actively involved in the establishment of the children’s rugby program. He has been coaching high school rugby for 15 years at Silver Heights, then Sturgeon Heights and now is looking forward to his second season at John Taylor. He has also been involved as a coach of the Saracen Colt team since the mid 90’s.
Gary has been and continues to be a staunch supporter and advocate for his club and for Manitoba Rugby. The many hats he has worn and continues to wear make him the role model of a player, builder and advocate for rugby. Gary wishes that more of us would take the opportunity to enjoy the privilege and rewards of introducing our fine youth to the great sport of rugby. The rugby community is truly fortunate that Gary MacDonald hooked up with the Saracens that day back in 1971 and decided to make Winnipeg his home.
1979-1986 Saracen Men's
Between 1979 and 1986 The Saracens RFC Men’s team were Premier League Champions and holders of the Patrons Challenge Cup for eight consecutive years. With few exceptions, the club’s record number of consecutive wins did not come easily and in some cases actually demanded titanic struggles against exceptionally tenacious and very determined opposition. The first of the eight wins illustrates the degree to which the Saracens were actually tested.
The 1979 final was played against the Wasps RFC at Lipsett Hall, Winnipeg. The Saracens fielded a team consisting of a fair mix of veterans and rookies; six of the players were new to first division rugby that year and seven were very recent graduates of St. John’s High School in Winnipeg’s North End. At the end of regulation time the game was all tied up at seven all. This was only the second year in which Rugby Manitoba had deployed a play-off system and had yet to plan for this contingency. The respective captains in consultation with the referee – a Mr Derek Milton – opted to play two ten minute periods of over-time. In the ensuing extended struggle the Saracens scoring seven unanswered points to take the title for the first of what would prove to be eight titles.
In the years that followed a number of the Saracens’ victories came only after battling through overtime periods or replaying games not settled in overtime. In the 1980 semi-final versus the St. James Club, a last minute try to the Saracens earned a draw and an opportunity to play St. James again. The Saracens won the second match and went on to defeat the Assassins in the final. Most famously in 1984, the Saracens managed to hold old rivals, Wasps, to a draw in over-time in the semi-final, forcing a mid-week rematch which they won. They then went on to defeat the Wanderers RFC in overtime in the final. This incredible three-hundred minutes of hard, highly competitive Rugby was played within a span of only eight days.
Some notable on-field achievements spanning the period from 1979 through 1986 that should be highlighted are:
The Saracens won five Manipogo and five Snafu tournaments, and were undefeated in all eight WASP 7’s.
Five Saracens players were selected to attend Canada Western Senior Men’s camps.
The club toured New Zealand in 1980 returning with an honourable record of; played six, won 2, tied 1, lost 3.
In the course of winning eight consecutive Premier Championship match games, the Saracens outscored their opponents 185 to 36.
In 1980, Rugby Manitoba decided to have the Patrons Challenge Cup winners represent Manitoba at the Canadian Rugby Union Western Semi-finals in Regina. The Saracens, augmented with four notable players from other Winnipeg clubs – three from the Wanderers RFC and one from the Assassins RFC – pulled off an upset win over Alberta. This was first time a Manitoba team had ever defeated an Alberta provincial side.
The Saracens RFC successfully recruited excellent players during these halcyon years but in the light of this year’s fellow nominee Peter Press it seem only fitting to give some emphasis to a specific fact: More than half of the players whom played in one or more of the eight championship victories were graduates of Winnipeg’s St John’s High School, the school where Peter had introduced the game of Rugby.
This Saracens’ team was obviously blessed with some exceptionally gifted athletes and talented Rugby players, a number of whom no doubt will already be, or are soon to be, members of Rugby Manitoba’s Hall of Fame. Possessing this exceptional talent was of course a huge asset to the Saracens and it obviously contributed to the team’s run of successes. However, and as everyone knows, while talent is a necessary ingredient to the mix, it is not sufficient of itself to guarantee team excellence and high achievement.
Other factors clearly played their part here. The team consistently featured a mix of veteran and rookie players, bringing maturity blended with the eagerness of youth. Blessed with the presence of some excellent leadership qualities from veterans and rookies alike, the team also quickly developed a tenacious will to win, the hallmark of all long-term strong and successful teams. Completing this picture was the team’s unique quality of “teamness” that developed and solidified through the eight years, a shared commitment to play for the greater good of the team.
This essential component of the Saracens’ success allowed them to repeatedly present an unflagging and resolute effort that did not cease until the final whistle was blown and the game was truly over.
It is fair and honest to say that with its talented players, excellent on-field leadership, a strong and healthy team culture and a genuine grasp of the essence of competitive team sport, Saracens premier teams of 1979 through 1986 brought distinction and honour to the Manitoba game by virtue of the level of excellence it aspired to, and, in many instances, reached. The club’s achievement was to establish and maintain consistent playing excellence over an extended period of time.
This then, was the Saracens RFC team of 1979 – 1986, a team deserving of a place in the Rugby Manitoba Hall of Fame.
Brian "Butsy" Erichsen
Brian Erichsen first became involved with rugby in the late 1980s through the Youth Rugby Program held Saturdays at Maple Grove Rugby Park. Brian was one of the original participants in this program which was run by Brian's father Wilf Erichsen, who himself was inducted by the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame in 2013 as an Official.
A lock and loose forward, Brian played his first organized rugby in 1995 with Oak Park High School, winning the high school championship. The same season Brian played Colts and Second Division Senior Men with the Saracens Rugby Football Club and was selected for the Manitoba Under 19 Provincial team. In 1996 he represented Manitoba with both Under 19s and Senior Men/ Buffalo teams whom he continued to play with until 2000. He helped the Manitoba Senior Men to win the 1997 Tier II National Championship. In 1998, Brian was awarded a Rugby Manitoba development scholarship to play rugby in New Zealand where he played both Under 21 and Senior Men with Teachers Eastern Rugby Club in Auckland.
Brian first played in the Rugby Canada Super League (RCSL) in 1999 with the Manitoba Buffalo and was selected to the RCSL All Star Team which toured Fiji. Brian also played for the Prairie Fire and Vancouver Wave teams in the RCSL.
Starting in 2003, Brian joined the Meraloma Rugby Club in Vancouver. He played with and captained them for 11 seasons, including five BC Premier League finals. After his retirement at the end of the 2013 season, he is helping to coach the Meralomas. Brian was selected for numerous BC Senior Men Provincial teams, helping them to win the Canadian Rugby Championship in 2009, and then advancing to the Americas Rugby Championship.
Brian's international playing career with Rugby Canada began in 1996 with selection to the Canada Under 19 team which toured Wales. In 1999, he was invited to join the Pacific Pride Canada Under 23 team, playing in the BC Premier League for three seasons as well as tours to New Zealand and Germany. Invited to play with Canada Senior Men's Team on a tour to Japan, he earned his cap in November 2009 against Russia. Brian played in the 2010 and 2011 Churchill Cups, scoring the winning try against France A to reach the Churchill Cup 2010 Final as well as the 2010 Americas Rugby Championship.
In 2011 Brian became the first born and raised Manitoban to represent Canada in the men's Rugby World Cup (RWC) and played in both matches against the USA in the run up to the RWC. Brian earned five caps in the course of his playing days for Canada's Senior Men.
In the words of Ashley Prest (Winnipeg Free Press, August 24, 2011) "Brian Erichsen of Winnipeg is a lock for the annals of Manitoba's rugby history."
Brian is a very deserving of his induction as a Player in the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame.
There are very few people within the Manitoba Rugby community over the last 40 plus years that do not personally know, or know of, Rick Romsa. Rick's involvement, contributions and accomplishments include many under the Induction Categories of Player, Official and Builder.
From his early playing days in the mid-1970s at St. John's High School, Rick was to continue his playing career as one of the primary leaders involved in the Saracen RFC dynasties of the
Seventies and Eighties and was a perennial selection for various Manitoba Provincial representative teams during that period as a Prop Forward. Rick was the youngest player ever named to the U20 Canadian Team in 1976, and later captained the Manitoba U20 teams for the next three years. He was the Captain of the first Manitoba High School Rugby team to travel and compete in England when he toured there in 1977 with St. John’s High School. That St. John’s team left England with a winning record. On North American soil, the St. John’s team’s that Rick played for never lost a match during his three years there. As a Saracen, the team’s he
played on, played in 13 Men’s Premier Division championship games between 1979 and 1994, with 11 victories.
In addition to his playing career accomplishments, Rick served to coach at many levels over the years from 1980 and forward, including high school, colts, and club rugby. Rick also coached at
several levels for the provincial team programs from 1992 and on, including the Senior Buffalo and Manitoba entries in the Rugby Canada Super League. His coaching involvement continues
to this day guiding the Manitoba Sr. Men's (Wolf Pack) provincial team program.
Throughout it all, Rick has been, and continues to be, a stalwart supporter of the sport as an administrator in several capacities, a volunteer on several initiatives and a patron for numerous
causes that serve to foster the growth and development of rugby in the Province of Manitoba. He has served for years on the Board of the Saracens Rugby Football Club including stints as
President, Vice President, and Treasurer, and is a Life Member of the Saracens RFC. Rick also served the boards of the Manitoba Rugby Union, and Maple Grove Rugby Park. Rick is a selfless advocate for the sport of rugby in Manitoba and few in the history of Manitoba Rugby could match the breadth of his involvement and significant contributions to every aspect of the sport. Rick is a founding member of the Friends of Manitoba Rugby non-profit
organization, the purpose of which is to support and sustain the infrastructure and development of rugby in the province, and to provide funding for youth who are unable to afford to play sports. He is also a founding member of the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame which seeks to preserve the accomplishments of Manitoba Rugby’s best and brightest, the ranks of whom Rick now officially joins.
Rick was nominated to the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame nearly at its inception, and has finally been inducted under the category of Builder now that he has stepped down from his official
duties with the Hall of Fame committee.
Jeff Harrison started his rugby career in grade 12 at St John’s High School, and at the age of 17 played for the Manitoba Rugby Senior Men's team in 1976. He certainly would be one of the youngest players to be selected to play for the Manitoba Senior Men's team in the Western Canadian championships.
Better known as Beaver, Jeff continued playing senior men's club and provincial team rugby, building a career spanning some eighteen years. Jeff had been an excellent hockey player and after finishing his commitment to Junior hockey devoted his time to the sport of rugby while studying to be a school teacher.
Jeff was part of the Saracen RFC team that toured New Zealand in 1980 during which he played in all six games at standoff. Along the way he caught the attention of two clubs that attempted to persuade him to remain in New Zealand and play for their senior teams. Returning from New Zealand, Jeff was instrumental, that same year, in engineering Manitoba's upset defeat of Alberta in the Western Canadian Championships.
Jeff represented Manitoba provincial rugby in several sequential Western Canada Senior Men's Championships and on the strength of his ability and play was invited to Western Canadian All-Star camps in 1981, 1982 and 1983. During this era, however, it was a requirement of Rugby Canada that players east of the Rockies relocate and play in British Columbia if they were to have any aspirations of expanding and developing their careers with an ambition of playing for Canada. For Jeff this requirement was neither viable nor attractive as he was starting out on what would become a successful career in teaching and, like his commitment to Junior Hockey, he had developed an even stronger commitment to Manitoba and Saracens rugby.
This was all to Manitoba rugby's gain as Jeff continued playing for the province until 1993 and Premier 1st division club rugby until 1996. Jeff was the only Saracen to appear in all eleven of the Premier 1st Division Championship final victories the Saracens enjoyed between 1979 and 1992.
Jeff was a player of exceptional natural ability and this was certainly recognized by friend and foe alike. He was quick, agile, had excellent vision and possessed an extraordinary ability to beat a player one-on-one in a variety of ways. There was always a spontaneity about his game. Whether it was executing the perfect feigned kick, a dummy pass or just a lateral step at pace, he was able to leave his opponent clutching at thin air. There was an element of innovation about his game too and, for example, his basketball pass when the circumstances called for, came naturally to him, even though it did the so-called purist somewhat disturbed.
In summary, Jeff's spontaneity, innovations, quickness, pace and his deft eye for the 'opportunity' made him one of the best attacking players the Province of Manitoba has ever produced.
St. John's High School Team 1977
The St. John’s High School Rugby Team 1977, while a career highlight for its members, is likely less well known for how its remarkable program development, initiatives and achievements had such a positive impact on the Saracens Rugby Football Club specifically, and, Rugby in the province of Manitoba in general, for many years to come.
Coached by Peter Press and Raymond Skett, the team not only competed in the Manitoba High School League, it was to participate in the Manitoba High School All Star Game competing against a team of all star players selected from the remaining High School League teams, and was to develop even further with an unprecedented touring initiative that included an exhibition game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s College in St. Paul’s Minnesota, a three game set at a prestigious High School Tournament in Chicago Illinois, as well as a 5 game England tour in March of that year. In its totality, the team was to amass a record of 14 wins against 2 losses, scoring 514 points for (111 Tries, 4 Penalties, 29 Converts) versus 66 points against (8 Tries, 10 Penalties, 2 Convert), and going undefeated with 0 points scored against the team in the Manitoba High Schools League on its way to a 46 to 3 victory against Kelvin in the Manitoba High Schools final.
From that 1977 St. John’s team, fifteen players went on to play on the Manitoba Junior U-20s Provincial Team (MB U20), four would become Canadian U20 All Stars (CA U20), and eight would go on to play on the Manitoba Senior Men`s Provincial Team (MB Sr. M). Record and all, a truly extraordinary accomplishment worthy of the teams’ induction to the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame.
1977 St. John’s High School Rugby Team
Coaches: Raymond Skett, Peter Press, (Principal) Dick Mutchmor
Players: Rick Romsa (C) (MB U20, CA U20, MB Sr. M), Rob Penner (VC), Ed Weedmark (VC) (MB U20, MB Sr. M), Stewart Carmichael (MB U20), Harry Robertson (MB U20, CA U20, MB Sr. M), David Felske, Don Grant (MB U20, MB Sr. M), Ron Langford (MB U20, CA U20), Arnold Majdell (MB U20), Rob Majdell (MB U20, MB Sr. M), Doug Tesluck (MB U20), Rick Fredricksen, Andrew Jackson (MB U20, CA U20, MB Sr. M), John Keith (MB U20), Ihor Holowczynsky (MB U20, MB Sr. M), Alf Plantz (MB U20), George Smith, Jack Miller, Frank Cazzorla, Ron Bennett, Markus Van Wyk, George Seidel (MB U20), Rick Romanowski (MB U20, MB Sr. M), Taras Matwyczuk
1977 St. John’s High School Rugby Team Record
St. John’s 7 (1 T, 1 PK) Churches College 18 (1 T, 4 PK, 1C) Loss
St. John’s 34 (8 T, 1 C) Bayhouse 0 Win
St. John’s 10 (2 T, 1 C) Brune Park 14 (2 T, 2 PK) Loss
St. John’s 15 (3 T, 1 PK) Brune Park Alumni 13 (2 T, 1 PK, 1 C) Win
St. John’s 7 (1 T, 1 PK) Gosport U 19 All Stars 3 (1 PK) Win
Chicago High School Tournament
St. John’s 16 (4 T) Loyola College 4 (1 T) Win
St. John’s 25 (5 T, 1 PK, 1 C) Graystone 0 Win
St. John’s 50 (10 T, 5 C) NewTierWest 0 Win
Benilde-St. Margaret’s College, St. Paul’s Minnesota
St. John’s 76 (18 T, 2 C) Benilde- St. Margaret’s 4 (1 T) Win
MB High School All Star Game
St. John’s 16 (4 T) MB High School All Stars 4 (1 T) Win
MB High School League Schedule
St. John’s 20 (4 T, 2 C) Westwood 0 Win
St. John’s 30 (6 T, 3 C) Kelvin 0 Win
St. John’s 60 (13 T, 4 C) Gordon Bell 0 Win
St. John’s 46 (10 T, 3 C) Fort Richmond 0 Win
St. John’s 56 (12 T, 4 C) St. James 0 Win
Mb High School Final
St. John`s 46 (10 T, 3 C) Kelvin 3 (1PK) Win
Ken Adams, an active referee in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as President of the Manitoba Association of Rugby Referees developed programs to assist in the identification of local officials by Rugby Canada, coordinated international referee exchanges, and implemented a strong administrative process to ensure the viability and growth of local rugby officials. Ken also played for and helped to coach the Saracens Rugby Football Club, represented Manitoba on the provincial team and remains a shameless promoter of Manitoba rugby in Canada. An integral part of any sport is the official who makes it possible for the game to be played within the constructs of the laws associated with it. Ken Adams has been instrumental in enabling the sport of rugby in Manitoba through his contributions to the Manitoba Association of Rugby Referees (MARR) over the years.
Ken began playing rugby in his native England at the age of 10 and continued throughout his university days, captaining the university team. After graduation he went to New Zealand where he played for the Otago “Country” team, a feeder for the Otago Provincial Team. After ending up in Winnipeg Ken founded the Saracens RFC in 1969 with Peter Press and Howie Goss. He played for 10 years with the Saracens and is an honorary life member of the club. He played on the provincial squad and captained that team from 1969 to 1974. He also served on the Manitoba Rugby Union Board as Secretary (1970’s) and Executive Vice‐President (1990’s). Ken began his career as an official in 1979 and was an active referee for 25 years. He was a member of the Canadian referee panel from 1990‐1996 and was selected to officiate Under 19, Tier I and Tier II, as well as Women’s, matches. He also ran touch for the international Senior Men’s (Can‐Am) match held at Maple Grove Rugby Park between Canada and the USA in 1994. A few years later, Ken was once again selected to run touch when the Junior Maori (a national team composed of players of Maori descent), second only to the New Zealand All Blacks, visited Winnipeg to play a match against a Prairie Select side.
As President of the Manitoba Association of Rugby Referees, Ken implemented a strong administrative process to ensure the viability and growth of local rugby officials. He was the MARR representative on the provincial board for many years. He pursued a referee exchange program with New Zealand, Britain and other Canadian provinces ‐ the highlight being when Bill Zubrec, a local referee, spent time in New Zealand. He also set up hosting opportunities and facilitated introductions whenever local referees were travelling elsewhere. Ken was a member of the Canadian Referee Assessor panel as well for many years.
Ken continues to serve on the Discipline Committee, having been a member for 15 years. He remains a shameless promoter of Manitoba rugby to others in Canada.
Art "GNOME" Logan
Art Logan, also known as Ticker and as of late, the gnome has been a memeber of the Saracens since the inception of the club in 1967. He joined first as a social member and then was enticed to strap on the boots in 1968/69, according to Art. He was selected Rookie of the Year and he played well into the 90's as a hooker and prop.
You could always spot Art on the field in his knee length jersey and full backwoods beard. He is one of the very few privileged to have played with his son Brock.
Art participated in pretty much every road trip the Saracens went on but his highlight was playing in the Golden Oldies in Toronto in 1990. We discovered he was a magician at this point. He was the only Saracen to go on a roadtrip with a small plastic bag as his luggage and somehow manage to have a change of clothes every day.
Arthur was always ready to lead the masses in song and was quite a choirmaster. He earned an honorary lifetime membership to the Saracens and as a special honour, for his dedication and hard work; "The Art Logan Heart of the Saracens Award" was created and is bestowed on a deserving Saracen member for excellence. It is awarded annually at the Awards banquet as is the club's highest honour.
It was as an executive member and treasurer that his greatest contributions to rugby were made. Art was always the quiet leader, working in the background for the betterment of the club and the sport. No matter what, Art was the calm sensible voice of reason, always level headed. He looked after the Saracens finances from the early 70's to 2009.
Arthur sat on the MRU board, ws president and Vice President of Maple Grove Rugby Park and sat on its board for numerous years. His contributions were essential to the stability of the Saracens and the continuation of MGRP as a first rate facility for the game of rugby.
He was one of the original group to get SNAFU off the ground and worked tirelessly from the start to 2010.
Art was fortunate to have a injury free career, but true to form in his first week of retirement he broke his leg. This was a while standing on the sidelines watching the game. His quiet leadership, skills, cool voice of reason earned Art the respect of his teammates and peers. He is a friend to all, and has forged friendships that have grown throughout his rugby career, especially with the Georgia boys and Minneapolis Pigs.
Always willing to help anyone, lend an ear in times of trouble, mentor to the young and always willing to the jobs that no one wanted to do, Art epitomizes the heart and soul of the Saracen Club.
Ray Skett joined the Winnipeg Saracens Rugby Football Club as a player in 1974, eventually becoming its coach and one of the few honoured as a Lifetime Member of the Saracens RFC. Ray was a successful coach for school, club, and provincial teams. Consequently the Top Coach award of Rugby Manitoba is named after him. Ray’s dedication to rugby in Manitoba led him from coaching to management and administrative positions, including the President of Rugby Manitoba, Director for the Rugby Canada Junior National Team, and Senior Team Manager for Rugby Canada.
Ray Skett came to Canada from New Zealand in 1969, but only got started with Manitoba rugby in 1974 after joining the staff of St. John’s High School as a teacher. Peter Press, another teacher at St. John’s, was involved with the Saracens and hurriedly recruited Ray after learning he was a New Zealander. Ray played as a Half-Back for both the club and provincial levels, where he was Team Manitoba’s Captain in 1975 and 1976. Peter and Ray, with Ray taking over the head coaching of St. John’s High School, led the school rugby team to their greatest successes during the mid to late 70’s. Ray ultimately moved into coaching the Saracens, leading the team to six of its eight Senior Men’s Provincial Championships from 1979 to 1986.
Provincially, Ray coached the Manitoba Junior Team from 1976 to 1979, and the Senior Team from 1979 to 1985. He was again handed the reins of the Manitoba Senior Men’s team in 1989 by presenting the Manitoba Rugby Union with a plan that would overhaul its existing player development system. Building toward the goal of a 1991 Tier II Championship Victory, Ray implemented a 3-phase plan that would build continuity in the team from year-to-year. This dream came to fruition in 1997 when the team won the Tier II Championships for the first time and moved up to the Tier I level under coach Garry Nicholson. Ray served as President of Rugby Manitoba for two terms, 1986 to 1991 and 1993 to 2000; as Rugby Canada Senior Team Manager from 1994 to 1995, including the 1995 Rugby World Cup; as national selector from 1996 to 2000 for Rugby World Cup and the Canadian 1999 World Cup squad; and as a Rugby Canada Junior National Team Director from 1999 to 2004.
Starting in 1991, Rugby Manitoba changed the name of its Top Coach award to “The Ray Skett Award”, honouring Ray for his successes as a Coach and his commitment to rugby at all levels. It is presented yearly to the most successful coach in the province.
Ray is a well-known constant promoter of the game and has also served as a mentor to former Winnipegger Brian Erichsen, a member of Rugby Canada’s 2011 Rugby World Cup Senior Men’s squad. In honour of the 20-year Anniversary of the Saracens Rugby Football Club, Ray authored the book “Games I Wrote Home About”, chronicling some of his fourteen years with the Saracens through synopses of seven memorable matches.
Following a distinguished career as a player in England (he is the oldest surviving Club Captain of the Gosport RFC in Hampshire) and a very short playing career with the Wasps RFC in Winnipeg, Peter Press turned his energies to helping build the sport of rugby in Manitoba.
In 1967 he helped create a team at the University of Winnipeg, eventually merging it with a dormant River Heights team to form the basis of the Saracens RFC. Peter was the Saracens’ first coach, leading the Club to Provincial championships in its first 2 years of operation.
In 1968 Peter was elected as President of the fledgling Manitoba Rugby Union, now a league of four teams, a position he held for the next two critically formative years. During his tenure, the MRU created a constitution which still forms the basis for the current version; helped set up what is now the Manitoba Association of Rugby Referees as an independent, self-sufficient organization; laid the groundwork for the introduction of a second, development division; created a formal set of rules for competition; introduced the concept of a Discipline Committee; initiated the annual publication of a year-book and generally became established as an effective, cohesive organization.
Also under his leadership, the MRU was admitted in to the Canadian Rugby Union as a full partner and formal, CRU sanctioned inter-provincial games were arranged with Alberta, UBC and touring teams from other countries. For three years Peter was the official representative for all three Prairie Provinces on the CRU Board which he used to good effect by arranging for the first ever CRU sponsored national referees’ clinic to be held here in Winnipeg.
In late 1970 Peter stepped down from the MRU because of a serious game-induced medical condition. Confident that the MRU was now on a firm footing and in capable hands he set out to do something new, creating a rugby team from his students at St. John’s High School. Other schools were taking similar initiatives and by 1973 the Manitoba High Schools Rugby Union had been formed. Peter was appointed as the first President of this new MHSRU and developed it into a mature, lasting and stable organization.
Peter continued to coach various teams and occasionally to referee well into the 1980s. Perhaps the zenith of this phase of his career was when he organized a tour of his hometown of Gosport by a St. John’s High School team in 1977. The team acquitted itself admirably against some of the better teams in the area.
Though Peter may rightly argue that others share the credit for many of these accomplishments, his enthusiasm, foresight and organizational skills helped them happen more quickly and effectively. He was largely responsible for creating the institutional basis for Rugby in Manitoba as we know it today. He is an Honorary Life-Member of the Saracens RFC and is still revered at St John’s High School. His legacy endures through his players and students, many of whom continue to be active in Manitoba Rugby.
Willfort “Wilf” Erichsen, started playing Rugby as part of the first youth Rugby program in Manitoba Rugby history. In 1971, an 18-year old Wilf got to know Dennis Caine, who was both a supervisor at a youth drop-in centre and a Rugby player with the Assassins
RFC. That summer, Dennis formed a team of 14-18 year olds known as the Frontiersmen, on which Wilf was a player. Wilf and his fellow teammates played exhibition games against the 2nd division teams in the Manitoba Rugby Union and also in a 7's tournament. The team failed to re-form the following year, but Wilf had moved on to become a senior player with the Assassins.
He was the first official graduate of a youth Rugby program in Manitoba. Wilf continued to play Rugby with the Assassins until 1977, when persistent knee problems and the responsibilities following the birth of his first son, Bryan, brought his
playing career to an end. It was then that his contribution to Rugby took flight and soared. He took on the duties of Treasurer of the Manitoba Rugby Union in 1977-1978 with Larry Cherrett as President. He started refereeing in 1978, and continued acting as
a referee diligently and in an exemplary fashion until 2003.
His contributions as an official with the Manitoba Rugby Referees involved him in developing that organization and serving in every capacity – as secretary, treasurer, appointments convener,
President and as the representative for MARR on the MRU Board.
In 2000, he undertook a third career in Rugby, again as Treasurer with Rugby Manitoba. Wilf assumed responsibility with a $53,000 deficit on the books, and left nearly 10 years later with the budget boasting a surplus. He kept the organization on a level financial
path for years.
Wilf’s contributions to the sport of Rugby do not end there, as he also acted as a coach to teams at several different levels. He spent 4 years coaching Rugby at Oak Park High School, several years coaching the Saracens Colts team, and for 6 years coached the
Saracens’ Senior Team. Wilf also helped set up and run a youth Rugby program on Saturday mornings with Gary MacDonald, Ray Hoemsen and others in which both of his sons, Bryan and Scott, participated along with a new generation of Manitoba Rugby
Wilf has contributed greatly to the development of Rugby in Manitoba in multiple capacities, and Manitoba Rugby has benefitted substantially from his efforts.
Paul Harland is one of those special individuals who could have easily been inducted into the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame as either a Player or an Official. Paul started his rugby journey in
Grade 7 at River Heights Junior High before moving on to Kelvin High School and the Winnipeg Wasps Rugby Football Club. In 1980, Paul started playing provincial level junior rugby at centre and was on the Manitoba provincial team that would play in the Bronze medal game at the 1981 Canada Games in Thunder Bay, Ontario; losing by one point. 1984 would be the first year Paul played on the Manitoba Sr. Men’s Provincial team; now playing flanker it would also be the first time he would be recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Player and the first time named to the short list of players for the Canadian Men’s National team. Until the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Paul would remain on a short list or long list of players for Canada and be named to several Rugby Canada sides. A highlight during this time was the opportunity in 1991 to play
against a touring New Zealand All Blacks side in Winnipeg, with one of his mentors, Garry Nicholson on the coaching staff. Paul would become one of the first four Manitobans to wear Canada’s national team jersey.
In 1998, Paul was named the Manitoba Rugby Union’s first Youth coordinator. In this capacity he set the High School League up with Manitoba Rugby Union Referees, helped organize the first ever High Schools rugby festival (which featured over 200 players from 14 schools located in Winnipeg, Steinbach and Red Lake, Manitoba), negotiated an agreed upon date for High School finals competition, and helped bring the league under the umbrella of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association. This experience led Paul to the other side of the whistle as a referee, easily his most terrifying experience on the rugby pitch.
Paul has been involved in coaching rugby at all levels of competition; youth, high school, club and provincial involving boys, girls, men and women for over 39 years. First certified in 1988 at Level 1, Paul obtained certification as a Level 3 Rugby Coach in 1994. Paul’s first provincial coaching foray occurred in 1987 taking a junior Men’s team to Newfoundland. He would later
go back to the Canada Summer Games in 1993, this time as a co-coach with Garry Nicholson, and would continue his coaching endeavours guiding several provincial junior women’s teams
with his brother Scott. His coaching involvement and successes at the junior levels were to reinforce the view that junior Manitoba rugby teams could be competitive at the national level when given strong preparation. Paul would go on to win city championships with several high schools, most recently at John Taylor Collegiate; and teamed with his mentor Guy McKim, was to help coach a Wasp Rugby Football Club 1st Division Men’s Championship and Prairie
Championship team in 1991.
Paul would continue his success coaching Sturgeon Creek and Saracen Rugby Football Clubs women’s teams to 1st Division provincial titles. Identified by Coaching Manitoba as Coach of the Month in September of 2007 and recognized by them in 2015 for his Years of Service, perhaps Coaching Manitoba said it best: “Paul is a great advocate for the sport of rugby. Through his dedication to rugby, Paul has helped to develop the sport in Manitoba. As an inspirational and motivated coach he has stressed to his players that if they want something bad enough and they work hard, they will get it.
” Paul’s rugby journey enters its fortieth year with his induction as an Honoured Member to the Manitoba Rugby Hall of Fame as an Official.
1972-75 Saracens Men's
1972-75 Saracens Men's
The foundation of this successful Saracens team was the four pillars or “founding fathers” of the Club, with a dedicated and colourful supporting cast. Enthusiastic imports and local Canadians combined to forge the Saracens early and consistent success. Imports included Peter Press, a coach whose eloquent demands and punishing practices developed stamina for the long run, and Ken Adams, whose combination of shifty speed and smart play bewildered opponents and taught the rookies. Home grown talents were Howie Goss, whose tenacity and heart anchored the pack, and Gerry Nufer, whose uncompromising competitive nature sparked the team.
Founded in 1968 and capturing senior men’s Premier provincial championships that year and in 69, plus 2nd Division championships in 69 & 70, by the early 1970’s the Saracens “train” was building steam for six Premier Provincial championships in its first eight years, four occurring consecutively from 1972 to 1975. In an era when few locally played the game, with no substitutions or injury replacements, commitment was high to not only field a team, but to win consistently. The Saracens club was adept at both attracting imports and developing local talent, converting football players to the sport. With strong 1st and 2nd Division teams, and at one point two 2nd Division teams, the Scimitars & the Sabres, the Saracens demonstrated great recruitment and talent, the depth of which was to show for many years to come.
Commitment described the Saracens and its 1972 to 1975 team. Commitment:
to the exhausting Churchill Drive practices with backs carrying forwards up the hill on their shoulders, and Peter’s favourite finale, the “run to the pumphouse…and back!”;
to each other, on and off the field, as a band of brothers;
to the club, playing, touring and winning;
to the game, a revelation to many, and;
to the league, as evidenced in supporting events of other clubs, high school rugby, hosting touring sides and initiating SNAFU, a tournament tradition that continues to this day.
Club records from the time show commitment to events hosted by other clubs with Saracens urged to support them, and that support actively reciprocated by other clubs annually competing at SNAFU. As one of the top tournaments in North America, SNAFU regularly drew teams from Georgia, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Kansas City, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, BC, and farther afield from London and the Caribbean. Starting in 1971, and still going, SNAFU offered opportunities to compete and celebrate the game. Each local team hosted a visiting side that built league solidarity in a long weekend of competition and camaraderie, establishing longstanding inter-city connections that exist to this day.
Stamina was essential as both practices and games were contested at a high level. Inter-squad games were as tenacious as league games, followed by great camaraderie, a rugby tradition. In an era of no substitutions, one was expected to finish the game, and then drink a beer with your previous foe of a few moments ago, and now a very fine fellow. The league was smaller then, so chance meetings around town were cause for celebration with club members or opponents.
The team’s high level of play was recognized by the League, with Saracens regularly placing many players and coaches on provincial sides for Inter-Provincial competitions. Also of note were hard fought contests, with world class touring sides, Lliannelli in 1973 and Lansdowne in 1974. As the team to beat, the 1972 to 75 Saracens helped raise the level of competition to the point where other clubs captured Premier Provincial championships during the years of 1976 to 1978.
Farther afield, the Saracens and the 1972 to 75 team tested their stamina and metal by going on tour. Facing other teams, differing tactics and strategies helped build Saracen skills. The team toured actively, south, starting with frequent trips to Chicago, then Dubuque, Madison, Minneapolis. Annual tours west included Regina (Prairie Cities) and Saskatoon (Louis Riel Days), with open invitations to come to SNAFU in mid-summer.
Off the field, these same Saracens fostered high school rugby, as players took time to coach high school teams at Sisler, St. John’s, Sansome, Westwood, Garden City and Transcona Collegiate. Many in the Saracens’ successful “second wave” of 1979 to 1986 were players who started their rugby careers at Sisler and St. Johns High Schools.
The Saracens 1972 to 75 team built upon a solid foundation, with commitment to the game and each other. They lived up to it, on and off the field. It was a club and team that grew stronger year after year and served to elevate both the development and caliber of the game and the league in the province of Manitoba for future years to come. The Saracens 1972 to 75 team are proud partners of the growing history of rugby on the Prairies.
Andrew Jackson, a graduate of St. John's high school and a key member of that school’s highly successful rugby teams, Andrew Jackson represented numerous Manitoba provincial U-20s and Senior Men’s teams over a period of several years and was a key member of the Saracens Rugby Football Club.
Better known to most as AJ, Andrew was first selected to represent Manitoba in the U-20s in 1975. He missed the 1976 year due to injury but played again in 1977, at which time he was selected to the Canadian U-20 All-Star team.
An automatic selection to Manitoba Sr. Men’s Provincial Rugby teams when available, Andrew’s participation was particularly remarkable and an indication of his commitment to the game given that his prime playing years were spent pursuing his education out of province at Lakehead University on a wrestling scholarship, during which time he was to garner a CIAU Championship Silver medal in 1980. Those who know rugby and particularly those who played with or against Andrew know him as a genuine student of the game, a fast learner and a relentless competitor. A lock forward, Andrew was an excellent scrummager and an astute lineout technician. He played during the era preceding the lifting of players in the lineout and with rigor applied himself to developing the skills and techniques that made him a formidable lineout jumper. He was also a very useful goal kicker.
As a Saracen, Andrew played for his club from the time he graduated high school all the way through to 1990, playing in seven of the ten winning Saracen sides that won provincial championships during this time, missing only three games; one due to University attendance, the other two due to injury. He was of course a member of the Saracen touring team to New Zealand in 1980 where he played in all six tour games and was awarded “Man of Match” honours in the Saracens 21 to 7 victory over the Opawa RFC.
Andrew’s playing record for the Manitoba Sr. Men’s Provincial Rugby teams is outstanding, and where he, along with a squad comprising of sixteen other Saracens, three Wanderers and one Assassin, played an influential role accomplishing an upset and first time ever Manitoba Sr. Men’s victory over Alberta in 1980. On the strength of this game, and others played representing the province, Andrew was invited to the Canada West All-Star camps in 1981, 1982 and 1983. Here he further caught the eyes of long-standing Canadian lock forwards Has De Goede and Ro Hindson who saw in Andrew, both abilities and potential. Both affirmed that for Andrew to realize his full potential he would need to play rugby in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Unfortunately this was not a realistic option for Andrew who was in the midst of attending Lakehead University at the time.
Andrew’s situation however was definitely Manitoba’s gain where, to summarize, Andrew enjoyed a representative career spanning twelve years from 1975 through to 1986 during which time he gave sterling service to both his union and the Saracens Rugby Football Club. One can only imagine the heights that Andrew might have achieved had he played in the modern professional era and had the opportunities of assistance that exist today for Canadian players of demonstrated ability and potential. One question would however remain: Who would have been big and/or strong enough to lift AJ in the line outs of today?